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Full Steam Ahead: The Burma Boom (Page 4 of 4)

Mr. Aung is a director at Thura Swiss, a Rangoon-based business consultancy. “Information is hard to come by here, for many sectors, there is no official data available. We literally have to get out and walk the streets to find things out ourselves.”

As for Burma’s immediate economic prospects, Mr. Aung says that “the economy will grow, but little by little. But we have very poor infrastructure, land is expensive, office space is hard to come by.”

Land prices have been jacked up by a cabal of well-connected business crones that have grown wealthy from Burma’s natural resources. With the country’s limited banking and financial infrastructure many have put their money into property and land.

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The result is office space rental prices of around U.S. $50 per square foot in downtown Rangoon — where the total floor space available is only 3 percent of that in Bangkok, an hour’s flight away.

Such scarcity and high prices are another deterrent to doing business — for Burmese and foreigners alike.

Nonetheless some ambitious companies are pushing ahead. Leafing through a glossy brochure, Ye Yan Naung Soe, marketing manager at the construction company Yadanar Myaing, tells me that one high-end high-rise condo block that is still under construction is almost sold-out.

Sitting on the edge of Kandawgyi Lake, a prize waterfront location in the heart of Rangoon, the as-yet-unfinished apartments are highly-sought after, it seems, amid a shortage of accommodation across the city.

“We have one room left to sell, out of 66 units in total,” he says. “People want to move here now as the economy develops, and many buyers are foreign, from Japan, Korea, Singapore.”

Simon Roughneen is a freelance journalist in Southeast Asia. His website is www.simonroughneen.com and he can be found on Twitter: @simonroughneen.

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